8 Overlooked Time Management Strategies to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
For the past few years, there’s been plenty of talk about the concept of work-life balance. And, in truth, that shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
For one, statistical data shows that most people work considerably longer than the proposed 40-hour workweek. According to Gallup, the average American racks up almost an entire workday’s worth of overtime hours every week.
Things get even worse for business owners. Survey data shows that 25% of entrepreneurs work more than 60 hours per week, and just 57% allow themselves a vacation (even then, they will go away for shorter than two weeks and will check in on work).
Seeing these numbers, it becomes clear that business owners need to find ways to improve their work-life balance. And efficient time management might be the key. But are there any overlooked methods of getting more done without staying at the office longer? It turns out that there are quite a few.
So, without further ado, let’s find out more about the uncommon time management strategies that will improve your work-life balance.
1. Be Strict About Deadlines
For most people, the idea of time management equates to finding more time to dedicate to their work. But, in truth, the best way to complete tasks isn’t to work harder. It’s the opposite – to find better ways to accomplish tasks so that you shorten your workday and have more time for self-care.
And, one way for professionals to “force” themselves to work smarter is to use the power of deadlines.
By setting a (realistic) time-frame during which a task needs to be done, entrepreneurs can create an external motivator for productive work. Moreover, such an approach can help prevent procrastination and even encourage a state of deep focus.
One great way to implement deadlines in your day-to-day routine as an entrepreneur is to set a hard-stop time for your workday. By determining that you have to stop working every day at 5 P.M., for example, you can shorten the amount of time available to you and automatically help your brain enter power-work mode.
Or, you can even take a step further and try to shorten your workweek. If you’re currently working 40+ hours, why not try to limit your week to 40 hours? Or, do what Tim Ferris does and try to make do with a 4-hour workweek. Who knows, it might be enough for you to get everything done, all the while allowing you to enjoy life outside of your business.
2. Take a Break
Another commonly overlooked time management strategy is that of taking regular breaks. But, science has proven time and again that taking time off has positive implications for productivity and work quality. Plus, it’s a direct addition to the “life” side of your work-life scale.
On a small scale, the best way to include regular breaks in your time at the office is to use your favorite version of the Pomodoro method.
The traditional technique prescribes work intervals of 25 minutes (called Pomodoros) followed by short, 5-minute breaks. After 3 Pomodoros, a long break is recommended, usually lasting 20-30 minutes.
Of course, you can make the Pomodoro technique work even better for your productivity by applying science to it. Apparently, research has shown that the best way to schedule work and rest was to use the 52-17 rule.
What you do on those breaks matters as well. Staying at your desk and browsing social media won’t allow your brain to rest. But, getting some fresh air or doing something new will give you the needed boost to get through all your tasks for the day on time.
Another impactful thing you can do to boost your work-life balance is to take regular vacations. According to science, the ideal length of a holiday is eight days, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the time off you deserve per year. So, try to reserve at least one day every week for time off and try to take a long weekend every month.
Not only will taking a vacation help you unwind, but it will also keep your mind fresh. That way, you won’t fall into those work ruts that end up trapping all your time and energy to complete basic tasks.
3. Don’t Do Everything on Your Own
Another method for freeing up time for your personal life is to take a hard look at how much your time is actually worth. Sure, you may be saving $100 by doing your own accounting. But if it’s taking you 10 hours to do everything right, you’d probably be better off outsourcing the task to a professional accountant.
That way, you’re freeing up time to do more value-boosting tasks as well as to relax.
If there is a low-value task that you really enjoy doing, you don’t have to give it up. But, try to be mindful of how you allot your time. After all, it’s a limited resource. Try to only spend it on things that will benefit your business or your personal life.
4. Implement Automation That Saves Time & Money
When working, there are some things you can delegate and some that you have to take care of on your own. But have you ever considered using technology and AI to help free up some time for relaxation?
There are hundreds of automation tools you can integrate into your workflow, from social media schedulers to CRM software that helps your business thrive. But, if what you’re after is a better work-life balance, then it’s not a bad idea to consider software solutions that track time and offer analytical data.
While these won’t give you a break from your obligations, they will help you figure out the things that take up most of your time. And, once you have that information, you can start looking for strategies that’ll allow you to pay more attention to rest and recognize instances when you’ve pushed yourself too hard.
5. Batch, But Don’t Multitask
When it comes to bad work habits, multitasking is one of the worst ones out there. While it does provide the illusion that you’re getting so many things done at once, what it really accomplishes is wasting your energy and weakening your focus. So, instead of having 20 browser tabs open and jumping between projects, try to only work on a single task at once. Not only will you do a better job, but you’ll probably be done more quickly as well.
Avoiding multitasking doesn’t mean you can’t still batch some of your assignments. If, for example, you have to run several errands outside of your office, it’s a great strategy to reserve an afternoon for getting them all done. That way, you’ll be able to dedicate bigger time chunks to high-focus tasks and won’t have to manage distractions in addition to (completely natural) productivity fluctuations.
6. Keep Your Body Healthy for Your Mind to Work Better
One of the leading reasons for entrepreneurs to look for a better work-life balance is to improve their health. And that’s no surprise. A poor work-life balance doesn’t just stop people from pursuing their hobbies and spending time with friends and family. It also has negative health effects like coronary heart disease, depression, and anxiety.
But, the one thing that gets overlooked is that having a better work-life balance doesn’t just stop preventable physical and mental health problems. It also plays a role in allowing people to do a better job at work.
With this in mind, investing in health-boosting practices can increase productivity. And, it can prevent financial losses that result from having to take time off from work.
If you’re committed to finding success in all areas of life (without having to make health sacrifices), consider completing your routine with some health-oriented practices. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and exercise, try training your breath in ways that will strengthen your immune system, eat a diet filled with brain-boosting foods, and try to avoid overindulging in coffee.
7. Have a Dedicated Workspace
For a considerable number of people, the thing that brought on a work-life imbalance was the move to remote work models.
Research shows that 70% of those who switched to remote work during the pandemic started working on the weekends and logging 40+ hours per week. And while the benefits of working from home include increased flexibility and productivity boosts, this data shows that staying home from the office simply isn’t suited to everyone.
One possible solution to proper time management when working remotely would be to invest in a dedicated workspace. A distraction-free office doesn’t just allow professionals to focus on their jobs and not the comings and goings in their household. It can also act as a powerful environmental cue that signals to the brain that it’s time to get things done.
In the simplest of terms, having a dedicated workspace in the home allows you to “train” your brain so that it knows that being in that space means working. The concept rests on the same principles that advise against working from bed – the brain tends to make connections between physical space and the tasks it needs to perform.
So, the better we are at maintaining a separation between work and play, the more successful we will be at achieving satisfaction in both spheres of our life.
8. Create a Rewards System Around Your Work
Finally, if you want to take control of your time and productivity for the sake of having a rich personal life, make sure that you find something exciting to look forward to in your work.
It can be anything you enjoy: lunch from your favorite cafe, a dedicated time slot for doing your favorite task, or a work desk makeover that will drive you to spend your time more productively. What matters is that it will help you have a more pleasant work experience and provide some external motivation to do your job.
In the end, effective time management isn’t about being the absolute best at keeping to our schedules or making use of every single minute in our calendars. It’s about finding a routine that helps us perform at our best, all the while leaving more than enough room for us to rest and recharge for the next workday.
Some Final Thoughts
As you can see, there’s quite a lot you can do to manage your time for a better work-life balance.
But the one thing you have to remember is that each and every one of us is unique. And that means that everyone has strategies that work for them and methods that don’t. Moreover, it’s not a bad thing to remember that productivity is always cyclical. So it’s normal to experience ups and downs.
But, as long as you make sure that you’re prioritizing properly, that you’re implementing structures that encourage discipline, and that you’re not overexerting yourself, you’re on a good path. And every incremental improvement is an added bonus.